By Angela Reed-Smith
Let’s face it, thinking about sexually transmitted infections (STI) is something most people like to avoid. But the reality is that each year approximately 19 million new cases occur in the United States. At least one-in-four teenage girls has an STI. By age 25, approximately half of all sexually active young people will get one.
The California Department of Public Health reports that San Diego County has a higher rate of Chlamydia and Syphilis than the state average.
It is time to put aside discomfort with this issue, and start talking about STIs. Specifically, we need to discuss the importance of getting testing because it is a key element in prevention.
It is especially important for the Latino community to share resources on prevention, testing and treatment of STIs. According to the CDC, the HIV epidemic is a serious threat to the Latino community. While Latinos represented approximately 16 percent of the United States population in 2010, they accounted for 20 percent of new HIV infections during that same year.
The rate of new HIV infections among Latinos in 2010 was nearly 3 times that of whites.
In 2010, Latino men made up 84 percent of new infections among all Latinos. The rate of new infections among Hispanic/Latino men was three times that of white men.
While Latino women represented 16 percent of new infections among Latinos in 2010, their rate of HIV infection was more than four times that of white women.
Getting tested can seem daunting if you don’t know what’s involved. Being diagnosed with an STI can be unsettling as well. Avoiding any discussion of STD testing might be the most comfortable choice, but it is also the most dangerous one.
The hard fact is many people with STDs will go undiagnosed because they don’t have symptoms. People can go years without any idea that they have Chlamydia, HPV or HIV. If left untreated, some STDs can lead to very serious health consequences, including infertility, cervical cancer and even death. We cannot afford to avoid conversations about STI prevention, testing and treatment any longer.
Through 19 reproductive health care centers in San Diego and Riverside Counties, Planned Parenthood provides more than 350,000 STD tests each year. Some patients wisely make STI testing part of their routine health maintenance. They may be in a monogamous relationship, but understand that a partner may have unknowingly passed along an undetected STI from a previous relationship. The time to discover this is sooner rather than later because early detection can be a key factor in treatment or management of an STI.
Some young people say they’d rather not know if they have an STI. The idea is so frightening that they’d rather remain in the dark. The truth is that not knowing one’s status is a lot more frightening than getting tested. With knowledge, there is power.
Getting tested is easy. For Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, one needs only to provide a urine sample. For Rapid HIV testing, it’s a finger stick. No need for an exam. No need to even undress. It is simple and painless, yet it can save lives. At Planned Parenthood, these tests are provided at low-to-no cost to patients.
Talking about STI testing can be uncomfortable at first, but it is also necessary if we want to promote sexual health and reduce the rate of infection in the United States. The time to start talking — and testing — is now.
GET YOURSELF TESTED AT NO COST
Mana de San Diego Dia de la Mujer Latina Health Festival
Saturday April 21, 2012. 10am-2pm
Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center: 140 East 12th St., National City, CA 91950
Planned Parenthood staff will be providing STI testing and Gardasil vaccinations. We will also.
Day of The Child
Saturday April 21st 11-3 pm
Memorial Bowl Park- 373 Park Way Chula Vista, CA 91910
Planned Parenthood’s Chula Vista Health Center will be providing STI and HIV testing at this huge family event.
Angela Reed-Smith the Senior Vice President of Patient Services for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest.